Sunday, February 21, 2010

Benjamin Douglas Hargreaves

Welcome, nephew!

I am sitting in the Cathay lounge, waiting for my flight to Hong Kong, I have just sunk a beer ... and I am marvelling at the last two weeks. No posts in the last fortnight, I know I know - blame - but lots to talk about.

First and foremost, naturally, is my wonderful, mesmerising, delightful (and a little pooey) little nephew, Benjamin Douglas Hargreaves. Benjamin, Ben, Benji, BB (Baby Benjamin), Peanut, B&H ... who knows how he will grow up, but it's with the warmest, most loving mother and father, doting and deliriously happy grandparents, a welcoming home and not a bad uncle too, that he starts his journey. Hi.

He's already demonstrating a canny sense of comic timing - he managed to be born while I was dressed as a woman (ask me some other time), and waited for a full nine days before leaving the hospital, getting home a mere 30 minutes before my arrival in Cambridge. I can only imagine the mischievous giggle of forcing my own mum and dad wait more than a week to finally be allowed to meet him. Indeed, mum was like a greyhound out a gate as the car pulled into Ele's driveway - she was not going to let son #1 delay her first grandson #1 experience. I think I like him already.

I have met plenty of newborns before - bagged-up, wriggly little poo machines that gurgle and coo during regular stinky sessions, scream in the interim, and sleep for short bursts while waiting for fresh milk and chances to decorate the inside of a fresh nappy. With Ben it was a little different; the mild sense of vertigo as Ele leaves the room to have a shower, leaving me with him will be something that stays with me for a long time. The giddy reaction of my whole family watching me change my first ever nappy will be something that I hope leaves a little quicker (aren't his balls big!), but I am sure photographic evidence will prove otherwise. And watching him sleep in my arms, feet twitching in dream, was utterly magical; what is he dreaming about?; it must be blurry ... and based on only a couple of weeks of experiences. Milk or poo, in all probability.

Just try to hold her back! A Grandmother possessed!

Biddle-style greetings.

Unadulterated joy.

Mum & Mum

Sleepy time.


Some more sleepy time.

Just a little more.

No visit back to the UK would be complete without a good trip into the mountains, and we did that, again opting for Wales, and a relative break in the cold and wet / frozen weather of the proceeding weeks. Three days in the mountains getting a little lost, eating up a storm at 'The Best Restaurant in Wales 2008' and delighting in the trials and tribulations of the local farmers in the pub, warmed me up nicely for a trip down to the south to meet up with my aunt and Grandmother (isn't she wicked with a camera!) and set the ball rolling for a few days in the big smoke.

Welsh Rarebit.

Fixer upper.

Tree Cathederal


Mummy, can I have a pony?

Isn't the typography just darling?

My Grandmother is a demon with the camera!

Family business.

A semi-random encounter with Lars (are there any other types?) lit the fuse to a fine weekend in East-Central London, and rattling around with Phil B. Yes we watched Avatar in 3D, no I thought it was tiresome, and yes Phil beat me in frames of pool at Elbow Rooms. But it was great to get some shopping in, peruse the exhibits at the never-less-than awe-inspiring British Museum, and gawp slanty-headed at the modern art exhibits at the Saatchi gallery over in Chelsea with Cressida. All punctuated with a few beers, naturally, and shopping for some treats and eats in the Covent Garden retail zoo.

Brilliant encounter with Lars - all too short!

The sublime Foster & Partners at the British Museum.

Crowds stand, transfixed by the Rosetta Stone.

Elgin Marbles.

In the balls!

Phil appreciates.

Cressida has a irrational phobia of large things standing next to short things... I therefore took great pleasure in finding a room with a large, 10ft-tall child, and a tiny, mini-child in the other corner.

I have been dying to see Richard Wilson's work for years ... on permanent display at the Saatchi Gallery (incidentally, did not enjoy the gallery as a whole as much as I was expecting).

Rich and Phil on the night bus back home ...

After these days of sleeping in cold, lumpy beds, or on floors with little more than sofa cushions on the floor, I was glad to get home and get connected with the house again, and to acquaint myself with Dad's evolving assortment of mechanical delights - this time with rather a handsome BSA Goldstar café racer, complete with gorgeous polished aluminium fuel tank and rocking clip-on handle bars. We cruised the local villages looking for a fight with some local Mods on scooters, but had to head home, disappointed and shivering after the chilly air of the Fens got the better of us. Round-2 in the TVR was a little more successful, but no less noisy than the 1950s racing exhaust pipes of the BSA that caused involuntary snapping of heads, of grandfathers pushing pushchairs and disapproving stares of their wives ("no you cannot get one").

Giving it a bit of welly.



Only in Cambridge ... found on our MTB ride to St. Ives.

Serious downtime this week was just what was needed. Coming up to six years in Taiwan (six!) without an extended break at home can wear a little thin. The timing of the holiday could not have been better timed; not only for obvious family reasons, but also because a change of roles at Dell means absolutely nothing pending on my mind, my head full of bright thoughts, and zero to-do list (I took very great pleasure in systematically deleting every last appointment from Outlook). With no stress and great family news, I am at-present feeling completely relaxed ... I recommend it!

In that vein, I must also mention; I was coming through the x-ray screening area and removed my laptop for inspection. Upon preparing to slide it back into my bag, the man behind me said "Hey, I couldn't help but notice your laptop there - what is it?". When I explained it was a just released model and explaining where to get one, I couldn't resist telling him who designed it. "Kudos!" ... and one very x-ray happy traveller!

Back to vacay: the last couple of days were again devoted to family, and shaking out every last moment of time with Benji (my favourite name for him). Wrapped up in a ridiculous woolly outfit for a hike in the winter sun avec famille Wimpole Hall, he looked like a perfect bundle of joy, and I am sure he has a wonderful, bright future ahead. I do have some explaining to do in about 18 years though, when I explain why I was dressed as a woman when he arrived. My plan to craft an image of being his roguish, dangerous and mildly unhinged uncle are off to a great start!

A meeting of minds. Welcome, Benjamin!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Wells Next-The-Sea

Hiking in the bleeding cold weather on the north coast of East Anglia.

I am presently sitting in a heavy haze of jet lag with the rain coming down outside in the way that only Taiwan can muster. Got back after rather a long night flight from London yesterday and have been battling e-mail demons all day (mostly slain, I might add). Felt I needed to find a little time to write up the marvelous weekend I had in Wells Next-The-Sea (what a quaint name) with the folks and newly wed sis and bruv-in-law.

I'll battle through the bleary vision and sausage fingers and say - great Christmas, and just what I needed to recharge the old batteries. 2009 ho!

Cold air but beautiful skies.

Norfolk is quite flat. A somewhat refreshing change from the mountains and hustle & bustle of Taiwan. For a wee while.

My delightful sister.

My old man.

Will he make it?!

Little rascals.

The sun sets on 2008, and I am looking forward to what 2009 will bring - truly.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mud, Glorious Mud

Dad and I braved the incredible (almost) sub-zero temperatures to attempt to ride along the new-fangled Guided Busway route from St. Ives to Cambridge, using the old railway lines. Running was smooth for much of the way, but we hot trouble where the construction ran out, and the mud arrived in typical self-adhesive fashion, entirely locking our wheels up, and leaving Dad dragging his bike the rest of the way (to the pub, at least).

All very amusing - this time next year we should be able to whistle up there in no time.


Suspension not working optimally, perhaps.

This never happens in Taiwan

Just in time - cheers!

Labels: , , , ,